Saturday, September 22, 2012

In the galley

By Nicole

I’m lucky. Yes for lots of reasons, but the one I’m thinking about has to do with the amount of storage space on the Hans Christian 33. When it came time to move aboard (and eventually start cruising), I gleefully purged boxes and boxes of junk. But even so, I was afraid that my favorite things wouldn’t be able to come with me. What was I going to do without all my shoes? Or my kitchen goodies? Or my Christmas tree?

Well, with Bella Star’s voluptuousness, I needn’t have worried. I of course pared back my shoe collection to go cruising (although I still have three pairs of heels, two pairs of flats, multiple flip-flops, Keens, athleisure sneakers, running shoes and hiking boots aboard). And I scaled down my gorgeous 9’ Christmas tree to a diminutive table-top variety, but when it came to outfitting the galley, I didn’t want to compromise.

Bella Star’s galley and salon

More than once I’ve been asked what it takes to outfit the galley on a sailboat for cruising. My general advice is this: If you use it on shore, chances are you’ll want to use it aboard. So find a place for it! Of course that doesn’t necessarily work for things like Kitchenaid stand mixers (I had to leave my beloved one behind), but for just about everything else—from Bundt pans to Microplanes to gravy boats—if you even think you’re going to want it, bring it. I left my blender and waffle iron in storage and lament their absence on a regular basis. Sure I want to live simply, but I’m not camping!

Like I said, though, I’m lucky to have room for niceties like gravy boats (which is really only a “gravy” boat once a year and should really be called a “maple syrup” boat). We also have a 2,000-watt pure sine wave inverter, which I don’t mind flipping on for a few minutes when we’re at anchor to run my immersion blender or hand mixer (again, lucky).

And I really do like cooking and baking, so having the right tools at hand is important to me. If you’re more of a PB&J and ramen person, well, you probably stopped reading at “Bundt pan.” For the rest of you, don’t skimp. You can always leave that gravy boat on a free shelf if you change your mind.

IMG_5053Galley slave (back when it was cold enough to wear jeans!)

The web, of course, is chock full of info on outfitting and provisioning, and the book The Essential Galley Companion by Amanda Swan-Neal has all sorts of great tips and recipes. With so much information out there now, I don’t need to bore you with redundancies. But after years of living aboard and cruising, there are a few tips that are important enough to mention again:

  • Remove cardboard packaging before bringing groceries aboard (from pasta, cereal, crackers, cake mixes, granola bars … everything). Cockroaches apparently like to eat the glue from cardboard boxes and then they lay their eggs in the boxes. And yes, I regularly see cockroaches on shopping trips, even in the nicer stores. For cake and brownie mixes, I write the name on the bag and cut the directions from the box before putting in my large “baking” bin.
  • Organize and decant everything into bins – it keeps things neat, keeps spills contained and keeps out moisture and bugs. That means flour, sugar, oats, pasta, beans … again, everything. Bins help keep the chaos that is a boat fridge to a minimum as well. I have Snapware containers, but any bin with an airtight seal will do.
  • Consider a pressure cooker. They’re not scary or dangerous. The general premise of a pressure cooker is that once it’s heated on the stovetop, it uses a sealed lid to trap steam inside. The trapped steam causes an increase in pressure and, by default, temperature. The result? Food cooks in a fraction of the time (like 1/3 the time). But you remembered all that thermodynamics business from physics class, right? Right? I did a lot of research before buying and almost went with a high-end model, but I’m cheap. So in the end, I chose the well-reviewed Presto 6-Quart Stainless Steel Pressure Cooker and saved about $200. No complaints so far!
  • Invest in a nesting cookware set– it’s worth it. We went with the Magma Professional Series stainless steel set and totally love it. I also have two nonstick skillets and some extra lids, which round things out nicely.
  • Get a gecko. They eat spiders, roaches and flies. And sell insurance!

P9190009This is our stowaway gecko, Spencer. He climbed aboard over 3 months ago and has been with us ever since. Isn’t he a cutie? He does have a nasty habit of sprinting across the counter while I’m making dinner and scaring the crap out of me, though.

To be sure, I’m not the only one who feels lucky to have such a well-stocked galley. Aaron’s a pretty happy boy when salted brown butter chocolate chip cookies, homemade veggie burgers or freshly baked bagels hit the table. And since I enjoy spending time in the galley trying new recipes and perfecting old standbys, it’s a win-win. :)

DSC_3732Salted brown butter walnut chocolate chip cookies

DSC_3716Homemade veggie burger with Cheddar cheese
”This is my favorite food that you make.” – Aaron

DSC_4490Plain bagels, warm from the oven

DSC_4474Happiness is devouring a toasted bagel with butter and cream cheese in a bagel-less country

Salted Brown Butter Walnut Chocolate Chip Cookies 
1 3/4 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, softened (1 1/2 sticks or 12 T.)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1 heaping cup chocolate chips
1 cup walnuts (or pecans), toasted and chopped
Sea salt

Preheat the oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.

Melt one stick of butter (8 T.) in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the butter begins to foam. Continue to cook and stir until the foam subsides and brown bits begin to form on the bottom of the pan. When the butter has deepened in color and smells wonderfully nutty, turn off the heat and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl, cream the two sugars together with the remaining half stick of butter (4 T.) until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Add the brown butter, vanilla and egg and beat until well blended. Gradually add the flour mixture, beating well after each addition. Stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts. Using a cookie scoop, place batter on prepared cookie sheet and sprinkle each cookie with a pinch of flakey sea salt.

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the edges are just lightly browned. Let stand on the sheet for a minute before transferring to rack to cool completely.

(From Butter Me Up Brooklyn)

"Meaty” Veggie Burgers
2/3 cup TVP crumbles (I use “beef” flavor)
2/3 cup hot water
2 eggs
1/2 onion, finely minced
1 ½ tablespoons ketchup
1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire
Dash of Liquid Smoke
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
2/3 – 3/4 cup flour

Let TVP soak in hot water for 10-15 minutes or until soft.

In a large bowl combine eggs, onion, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, seasonings and bread crumbs until mixed. Squeeze water from TVP with your hands and add to bowl. Mix thoroughly. Add 2/3 c. flour and mix gently, adding more flour if it’s too sticky (it should be pretty sticky, though).

Dust a plate with flour. With floured hands, form into 4 patties, patting into a round shape on the plate. Gently place onto well-oiled grill pan or skillet over medium-low heat (pat back into a circle if needed). Heat 3-4 minutes on each side, or until browned. Serve on buttered, toasted buns.

Makes 4 dainty burgers or 3 big burgers
(Adapted from Cookouts Veggie Style by Jolinda Hackett)

Easy, Chewy Bagels
4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F)
3 tablespoons white sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon white sugar

In large bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups flour and yeast. Mix water, 3 tablespoons sugar and salt together and add to the dry ingredients. Beat with a mixer for 30 seconds at a low speed. Beat at medium speed for 3 minutes. Then, by hand, mix in the remaining 2 3/4 cups (or so) of flour to make a moderately stiff dough.

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (8-10 minutes). Place in a greased bowl, cover and let rise until double in size (45 mins to 1 hour).

Cut into 10 portions (12 if you want small bagels). Dust work surface with flour. Roll portions into smooth balls, then dust lightly with flour, rolling in your hands to coat. Cover, let rise 20-30 minutes. Poke a hole in the center with your finger, and gently enlarge the hole while working the bagel into a uniform shape.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon of sugar. (The diameter of the pot is more important than the depth.) Maintain a simmer. Preheat oven to 375.

Working in batches, gently place bagels into the water using a spatula; cook about 4 minutes, turning once (they’ll puff up, but don’t worry about crowding). Drain on wire rack. If adding toppings like poppy seeds or sesame seeds, dip the tops at this point while they’re still damp. Use an egg wash if you need more sticking power.

Place on a lightly greased baking sheet, and bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes 10-12 bagels
(Adapted from

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Killing Time in Golfito

By Aaron

We arrived in Golfito after an utterly terrifying lightning extravaganza of an overnight passage from Quepos.  It was bad enough that, combined with our several other close calls lately, we decided to take a break here until November to let the worst of the rainy season pass us by.  It rains almost as much here in the month of October as it does all year in Seattle.  And this is a good spot to leave the boat for a trip back home to visit friends and family.  Also, we need to set ourselves up timing wise for wherever it is we head to from here.  There’s a big left/right turn decision coming up.

We tied up to a mooring for the first couple weeks while we figured out what to do with the boat.  Our visas were almost expired along with the temporary import permit for Bella Star.  We took the bus to Panama and were able to renew our visas by exiting Costa Rica and coming right back in.  Unfortunately there are no extensions available for the import permit, and our only option was to put the boat in bond.  It’s a double suck because you can’t be in bond while you’re at anchor or on a mooring; it has to be in an approved marina.  We checked with the two marinas that bond boats, Banana Bay and Fish Hook.  Fish Hook was willing to negotiate on the rate, and they were super friendly.  After hearing quotes of anywhere from $300 to $2000 for putting the boat in bond, we were pleasantly surprised when Fish Hook said they’d provide the service at no extra charge.  So we moved the boat over to the marina and they took us to the customs office for a painless process.  Legally the boat will need to stay in the slip until we are ready to check out of Costa Rica. 

At dawn I was down below sleeping while we made our approach.  I slept while Nicole kept a close eye on a waterspout off our port side.  You know she’s getting desensitized to severe weather when she doesn’t even wake me up to see a frigin water tornado. 

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We picked up a mooring at Land Sea, run by expats Tim and Katie 

Land Sea has everything the cruising sailor needs. 

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The dogs there guard the premises with varying levels of enthusiasm

If I spot a hula hoop just lying around you can bet I’m going to hula hoop the hell out of it.  FYI.

Golfito sits at the bottom of some mountains which are part of a national forest reserve. We got up early one morning to make the steep hike up to the top.

DSC_4282 The hike gets you up to some beautiful vistas overlooking Golfito and the Golfo Dulce

It was a bit hot!

DSC_4295 Some random dogs followed us around

We spotted a poison dart frog…

DSC_4310 And lots of toucans, but they’re hard to get pictures of

And huge spiders

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On another day we took our dinghy for a ride around the bay… if for no other reason than to get a breeze going over us

This is Pelican Island, which is for sale – asking price is $100,000

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Views of the bay

There’s really only one main road in Golfito.  When we took a taxi here the first time we were surprised when it picked somebody else up along the way.  Turns out this is common practice here since there’s just the one main road, so if somebody is heading your way, they hop on in.

Bananas used to the be main economic driver here until the United Fruit Company ceased operations.  The bananas have been replaced by palm oil plantations.  Many of the buildings in town are leftover construction from the United Fruit Company, tin roofs and overhangs are the common architectural style.

Nicole was pleased to discover a fruit and vegetable market with an excellent selection and great prices.  A good thing since food prices here are otherwise extremely high.

These are called limones mandarinas and taste like limes but a little sweeter.  We like them a lot.  The best way to eat them is in slices, garnished with a gin & tonic. 

I assume this fruit is some sort of carnivorous variety

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After we moved the boat over to Fish Hook Marina we soon met Javier.  Javier is a Tico who works on one of the sportfishers here.  He and his German girlfriend Janina took us out to a little off-grid restaurant on an island across the bay.  Apparently there was a pig there that was locally famous for drinking beer.  Something I was eager to see.

Unfortunately they had killed the pig and barbequed its ribs.  So we ate some.

A lazy day at the beach

Javier taught me a new trick – peel your beer labels off and stick them on the table before they take the empty bottles away.  That way you can keep track of how many you had when the bill comes.

It was super hot so we took a few beers into the pool

We had a good view of the soccer game that broke out on the beach

Heading back after a fun afternoon

Most days start out sunny and beautiful.  And HOT.

I try to keep busy and cross projects off the list on most days.  There’s still some lightning-related things to take care of, and I’ve completed several items that have been on the list for several years.  Right now I’m in the process of painting the dinghy boards with epoxy since they were starting to rot. 

Gotta get your outside work done early though.  Usually by the late afternoon it starts to rain really hard, but we look forward to it since it cools things down nicely.

September 15th is Independence Day, and we watched the parade go by.  It was mostly cute little kids in coordinated outfits, and lots and lots of drums.  High schools and colleges also participated.


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